Checking In

Hello! In my last post, way back in February, I mentioned that posting would be light, and here I am, back again in May. This spring has been very busy, with lots of classes to teach, a toddler to chase after, and a house to sell. As it turns out, our house hasn’t sold, but we have found a tenant to rent it, and we have also found the house we’d like to buy. We should be moving in a week or two, although the actual moving date remains maddeningly elusive. Does the house-buying process ever go smoothly? I’m thinking that it doesn’t.

At any rate, I’ve squeezed in reading when I can. I’m not reading very fast these days, but that’s okay; at least I’m reading steadily. Two of the highlights of the last couple months have been Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams and Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation. The first is an essay collection that has been a surprise best seller, because when are essay collections ever best sellers? But this one is worth the hype I think. I only wish more essay collections got this much hype, because there are others that are equally worth it. But something about Jamison’s book is striking a chord with readers right now. What I liked most in the essays is the combination of sharp intellect and emotional wisdom. Jamison does what great essayists do: grapples with ideas and experiences and lets us see the results on the page. She writes about herself, but she doesn’t write only about herself. Her range of topics is broad, but the essays are thematically connected and feel like a coherent whole. She is a good guide to experience.

The other book, Dept. of Speculation, is a short novel about domestic subjects — motherhood, marriage — and also about trying to create art. What makes it distinctive is its style and its voice: it’s written in a fragmentary way so that while the pieces all fit together into a story (of sorts), the short sections jump from topic to topic, idea to idea, so we are left to piece it all together. It’s not that this is hard work, though. I loved the main character’s puzzled, struggling, combative attitude toward the world around her. Her observations about new motherhood are so true as to be almost painful for this new mother to read. I checked this book out of the library, but I need to get my own copy so I can reread it. (I also plan to spend some time with this list of books that influenced Offill’s writing.)

And now I’m off to read a little Trollope (Can You Forgive Her?) before bedtime. I hope all of you have fabulous books to read as well!


Filed under Books

9 responses to “Checking In

  1. How exciting–a new house! It is a lot of work selling and moving–is your new house bigger (am guessing it is–)–beware, you will expand to fill it (well, not you yourself, but all of a sudden you will have more space for stuff–books and stuff…). Now the thought of ever moving somewhere smaller sort of scares me. Glad to hear your reading is going well–you sound busy, but busy in a good way. Have a great summer–I hear it’s spring but you wouldn’t know it by the weather here! 🙂


    • Hi Danielle! Yeah, the house is bigger, which we wanted for the baby, and I’m sure you’re right that we will expand to fill it. We are already planning to buy new bookshelves! I hope your weather improved. We’ve had a lovely spring weekend, but this beautiful weather is so wonderful because it’s so rare!


  2. Thank you so much, I have not read any of the two books, but will take a closer look at both. Offill’s list contain some of my favorite authors, so I think I will find her book very interesting.
    Did you ever read Rachel Zucker’s “Mothers”? Most recommendable:



  3. Happy Trollopian reading to you!
    And I agree with you [a former posting] the Elizabeth Gilbert book sounds so interesting — such a compelling title. I have picked it up several times in the store and [virtually, if not nearly literally] salivated over it.
    I am right now reading a RIVETING book — An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser and two-thirds through it, highly recommend it.


    • I’ve never read An American Tragedy, but I guess I’ve thought I might someday — in the way it’s easy to think I’ll get around to all the “classics” eventually. Yes, the Gilbert book was very good, and I recommend it! I think you would like it.


  4. House selling and house moving in my experience never goes as planned but I hope yours goes as smoothly as it can! I’m on the wait list at the library for both the Empathy Exams and Dept. of Speculation. Very much looking forward to reading both!


  5. After having both my babies, once I started reading regularly I knew I was well on my way to feeling like “myself” again. It happened a little later with duncan than with Evangeline, mainly because I had her to care for as well, but it happened! I’ve put the Empathy Exams on my tbr list.


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